Darlington Nagbe takes center stage as Portland Timbers dominate rival Seattle Sounders

PORTLAND, Ore. – In the midst of all the green smoke, log slices and spraying beer in the Portland Timbers’ momentous 4-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on a sweltering Sunday evening in the Rose City, it may be hard to believe that just four nights ago head coach Caleb Porter was trying to find the words to explain having been on the wrong end of an even more lopsided rout.

The Timbers lost 5-0 to the LA Galaxy on Wednesday night at StubHub Center in Southern California. But in a stark 180-degree turn, the Timbers routed the second-place team in the Western Conference for their second straight win over their most hated Cascadia rivals – following their 3-1 US Open Cup over Seattle less than two weeks ago – the first time they’ve accomplished that feat since the 2013 season.

Now Portland are tied with the Galaxy for third place in the West after having won five of their last six league matches. And Porter didn’t mince words about the implications of their hot stretch.

“It does a lot,” he said in his postgame comments. “This is a momentum league. Obviously, we lost a little momentum in LA, but for the most part in the last six games we’re in a really good run of form right now.”

Leading the way was a player who hasn’t been able to enjoy in the spoils of the Timbers hot stretch – at least on the scoresheet. Darlington Nagbe opened his 2015 account at long last, scoring his first goal since late last season to end a much-discussed goal drought for the talented winger with the game’s opening goal in the 12th minute.

Timbers captain Will Johnson said Nagbe, like the entire team, came into the game with something to prove.

“When he does that, you can’t stop him,” Johnson said. “You can try, but you can’t. You can foul him, but their guys start picking up yellow cards and he was able to break through. But I definitely thought he had a little bit of an edge. I think we all did coming off of Wednesday. Wednesday sucked.

“That’s us, that’s not who were are. Even if we lose a game, we don’t get blown out, we don’t quit, we don’t get beat by five, that’s just not us.”

Nagbe, who assisted on the first of two second-half goals by Fanendo Adi that broke open a late 1-1 deadlock, led an impressive attack. The Timbers punished a Sounders side missing Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins to the tune of 23 shots (11 on goal) to just six shots for Seattle.

Nagbe’s fellow winger, Rodney Wallace, also opened his 2015 account with a stoppage-time capper.

“We were due for a game like this,” Porter said. “We’ve had some very good performances, yet we haven’t found the kind of breakthrough attacking performance. And that’s going to really help us moving forward. We got Darlington’s first goal and Rodney’s first goal; it’s great to have the wingers chipping in.”

Quite the difference a few days and a trip home to face a rival makes.

“We lost against Galaxy, but we came into this game believing that we could win,” Adi said. “We just played very well as a team today. … The confidence is very high.”

Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com.